"I just wanted to be a folk singer," says 37-year-old Todd Snider from his hotel room somewhere in Texas, the state that welcomed the Oregon native with open arms before he moved on to Memphis and, finally, central Tennessee. While the title of Snider's seventh and latest album, East Nashville Skyline, pays obvious homage to Bob Dylan, Nashville is also the singer-songwriter's home.
"I was on this path where I would walk past this guy's house all the time," Snider says, "and he had a studio. I just went over there one day and I recorded a song. I called Will [Kimbrough, the reigning Americana Instrumentalist of the Year] to see what he thought of it, and he thought it was cool. And then we did another song. And then we just said, 'Let's do this again tomorrow.'"
A longtime friend as well as guitarist for Snider's former backing band, the Nervous Wrecks, Kimbrough is also Skyline's co-producer and the opening act for Snider's upcoming show at the Beachland.
"I'd just gotten out of this hospital, and I knew what kind of record I wanted to do," Snider says of the Skyline recording sessions.
By "hospital," he means rehab. "I always try to say hospital, to try not to be so dramatic," Snider says. "It's embarrassing to talk about. But I will."
Though Snider's Skyline songwriting tackles everything from a stint in an Oregon jail and the death of a friend to an outsider's perception of the Music City, conservative Christian Republicans, and Mike Tyson, so far multiple rehab stints have escaped musical treatment.
"I can get to talking about it," he says, "and the only reason I don't want to go on about it is, it seems like people do so much. I mean, I'm not trying to pretend I'm not a cliché in this thing."